Baked beans, chocolate-chip cookies, pancakes, vegemite, peanut butter: theres no end to the number of goodies that bring home comfort to the thousands of ex-pats living in Rome.

No friend coming to visit is spared the mercy mission, laden with traditional treats, from liquorice allsorts to German frankfurter. Likewise, any trip home brings the chance to stock up with apple pie, maple syrup or plain old potato crisps.

Treasured items that reveal something of the character of one country can be unknown to ex-pats from elsewhere.

Ever heard of tim-tams for instance? Probably not, but Francoise Blackburn, an Australian who has taught English in Rome for five years, insists she could not survive without her regular supply of the chocolate-coated cookies. She explains: Tim-tams are Gods gift to biscuits. I bring back loads any time I go to Melbourne. Theyre massive back home, everyone loves them.

They may be a mystery to most people living here, but around 30 million of the cookies are sold in Australia each year; they were launched in 1963 and named after a horse that ran in the Kentucky Derby in 1958.

The demand for traditional fare from the United Kingdom knows no bounds, incorporating everything from brown sauce to sugar puffs.

However, no one item seems to divide British ex-pats opinions quite so fervently as Marmite. Since the German chemist, Justus Liebig, realised in Stafforshire in 1902 that brewers yeast could be made into a meaty-flavoured concentrate, two camps were established those who love Marmite and those who detest it.

Julian Moulding, a translator who moved to Rome over 20 years ago, is never without his jar. Its true, you either love it or hate it, and thankfully I love it. Its what I always look for when Im home.

Marmite provides a healthy dose of nostalgia in every sense, boasting a wide range of vitamins, including B12, thiamine (B1) and riboflavin (B2). During both world wars, it was shipped to British soldiers around the globe.

For Chinese writer Gao Shui Mun, who has lived in Rome for two and a half years, the choice is just as simple, and a popular one among her ex-pat community: soy sauce. I use it with so many meals. Fortunately I dont have to go home to get it, as its available over here I go to the Chinese shops around Piazza Vittorio. Its the main thing I look for, along with some traditional Chinese vegetables such as bak choi leaves.

For the luxury of soy sauce, Gao Shui Mun can thank a 13th- century Zen Buddhist monk named Kakushin. He was studying in China when he developed a substance called miso out of soybean paste, and the first soy sauce was born.

Website co-ordinator Remco Niggebrugge from the Netherlands has lived in the Rome area for three years, and said he was amazed to stumble on his favourite Dutch brand of peanut butter while at his local supermarket in Frascati.

However, its the stroopwafel that Niggebrugge seeks above all, and he usually has to rely on a delivery from home. This Dutch delicacy was invented in 1784 when a baker from Gouda made a waffle of old crumbs and spices and filled it with syrup. Over 200 years later it is providing tasty home comfort to ex-pats across the world.

The majority of Americans living in Rome highlighted food that originated in other countries, such as tortillas and bagels.

Joanna Braman, who works at Wanted in Rome and has been in Rome for two years, says this is in keeping with the American custom of absorbing diets from across the globe. America doesnt have a traditional cuisine; we borrow from other cultures and are a melting pot of food. I have food shipped over like tortillas and guacamole as well as peanut butter.

Some requests can seem rather unlikely. A Finnish choice for example is often a tube of toothpaste, which may appear bizarre to other ex-pats.

However, all becomes clear when we learn that in 1970 Finnish professors Arje Scheinin and Kauko Mkinen were hailed for making a crucial scientific breakthrough when they proved the beneficial effects of the substance xylitol in fighting tooth decay.

There appear to be no set rules on finding home foods in Rome. Supermarkets generally stock famous worldwide brands of cornflakes and chocolate digestives, for example. However, finding a certain blend of tea or your favourite brand of raspberry jam may mean getting lucky after trawling supermarkets and alimentari. You may also discover an area specialising in traditional native foods, like the above-mentioned Piazza Vittorio. There are also chain stores with sections featuring foreign foods, most notably Castroni and the Elite chain of supermarkets. Inevitably, finding your favourite things far from home comes at an extra price.

The internet has changed the patterns of ex-pat shopping, with a plethora of websites inviting you to roam through their virtual supermarkets. One British site tries to recreate the quaintness of England, shunning the supermarket image in favour of a cosy corner shop and a feast of traditional favourites, including chocolate mini-rolls, porridge oats and tomato soup. Beware though: one tin of baked beans may cost 98 cents, but add shipping to Italy and suddenly you are forking out over 34 for your fix.

Of course there are countless more examples of classic choices from each country: Danish rogbrod (a type of ryebread), German Gummibarchen (a version of the jelly baby) and Polish szarlotaka (apple cakes) are just a few among many, many other items on wish lists across Rome.

It may seem strange that in a country renowned the world over for its fabulous food, ex-pats are so keen to stock up with items from their own countries; but inevitably nostalgia calls for a taste of home.